We, the consultation team, would like to thank Pastor Grant Barnes, the Lay Leadership and the congregation of First United Methodist Church of Hemphill, TX for the invitation to consult with your church as part of the Vibrant Church Initiative. The observations and prescriptions in this report are the result of this team studying the following information:
- FUMC Hemphill’s self-study document provided by its leaders
- interviews with pastor, staff and lay leadership
- a focus group with members of the congregation
- a meeting with the Ad Council
- a MissionInsite demographic report of the area’s population
- input from the Faith Perceptions “Mystery Guest Worshipper” report
- input from Saturday’s leadership workshop
- It was a great joy to work with a congregation that openly cooperated with us and provided all the information we requested. The consult team’s prayer is that God will use this assessment experience and consultation report so that FUMC Hemphill will more effectively make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of its community and the world.
STRENGTH #1: HEART FOR COMMUNITY
The people of FUMC Hemphill have a heart for the community and are mission-minded. They are generous with both their time and their talents. When aware of a need they are financially generous, as well. We have seen this evident through the empty stocking program, the prayer shawl ministry, and the after school program, just to name a few.
STRENGTH #2: A GENUINE LOVE & CARING BOTH INTERNAL & EXTERNAL
There is a warm and friendly atmosphere of caring at FUMC Hemphill. Mystery worshipers picked up on the congregation’s warmth and friendliness immediately, culminating in some of the highest marks in VCI history that we have seen. Their comments revealed that the greeting they received and conversations they had were sincere and made them feel comfortable. One guest worshiper described feeling welcomed from the time they were greeted upon arrival at the church until the service was over.
Internally, we have heard about how members tend to the spiritual health of the congregation as well as care for one another in times of crisis and pain. When someone is in need, the congregation rallies around each other and offers comfort.
STRENGTH #3: LOCATION
FUMC Hemphill has a very strategic location for doing its work in its mission fields, being a regional church to Sabine County. From this location it is close to retirement areas, the county seat, and major businesses. Furthermore it is the only church sitting adjacent to the majority of the ISD, which allows for this location to be central in reaching out to others in the name of Christ.
Concern #1: Missed Opportunities
Both inside and outside the congregation we have heard again and again of “Missed Opportunities”.
Looking outward, the congregation is perceived to be friendly but has consistently missed the mark on achieving hospitality. Christian hospitality is the active desire to invite, welcome, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ. This also applies to ministries that have been ‘Missed Opportunities” when they fail to bridge someone from an event, service or program back into the life of the church.
Looking inward, this congregation is full of fellowship opportunities and programs but often overlook that final step to spiritual growth. Without a Christ centeredness these programs and events fail to meet the mission of making a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Concern #2: Communication
During the interview process, focus group and Saturday workshop, the VCI team heard there are many wonderful ministries taking place in the life of the church. Yet, there was a consistent theme regarding communication issues such as events, new ministries and church decisions. There does not appear to be a clear process for communicating vital information between the office, ministry areas, and leadership. This often leads to a “silo effect” with each ministry area functioning independently, which makes communication to the entire church body more challenging.
Communication is not just about how we talk within the body of the church; it is also how we engage the community and those outside the church to let them know who we are. Evangelism is often only thought to be outreach, but it is also about communicating who we are, and what we do with those outside our walls.
Concern #3: No Unified Vision or Effective Structure
There is structure without any guiding vision. We consistently heard the congregation’s desire for a clear sense of mission and vision to provide direction, clear purpose, and ministry ownership. A clear mission and vision will enable the church to align all ministries and resources with its purpose, and provide leadership with a framework to function strategically and intentionally.
The congregation will have a Day of Prayer and Repentance to embrace God breaking open the hearts of the congregation for the unchurched. The service will allow the membership to be fully prepared for God’s vision for the future. It will be led by a person to be selected by the Center for Congregational Excellence. The Day of Prayer and Repentance will take place on March 6, 2016.
Discipleship/Connection 1. Create a Hospitality Team consisting of 6-8 individuals by March 14, 2016. This team will focus on helping the congregation effectively offer hospitality to guests, inviting them into the life of the church. This team will use resources such as Beyond the First Visit and Get Their Name to educate the congregation and encourage them from just being friendly and caring toward that final step of hospitality. Additionally, the pastor could offer a concurrent sermon series on the scriptural idea of hospitality.
- The pastor in consultation with the coach will appoint a four-person discipleship pathway team by April 11, 2016. This team will develop a clear and simple process for growing new and seasoned Christians in their faith. This team will set up a clear plan for intentional faith development so that children, youth and adults might become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. This team will use resources such as Simple Church and Move Along with others, suggested by the coach, in creating this pathway. This team will share the pathway with the church no later than July 18, 2016 for implementation throughout the church no later than September 6, 2016.
Prescription #2: communication
Developing a Clear and Broad-Based Process of Communication
The pastor in consultation with the coach will select a team of 3-5 people by March 14, 2016. The Center for Congregational Excellence will provide a communications expert to come educate and assist in structuring your communication.
This team will pay particular attention to:
1-website, 2 – bulletins/newsletters, 3- pamphlets describing church ministries and outreach, 4-posters and digital information boards, 5-explore any unused technologies such as blogs, Twitter and emerging social media.
The team of 3-5 will also research and implement healthy ways to communicate clearly and effectively with all worshiping congregants about major decisions, general updates, finances and ministry needs. Particular attention will be given to transparency, accountability, and effectiveness using appropriate forms of technology for this area so the church is not weighed down with more meetings just to share pertinent information.
The team will review public relations practices of other small/medium size churches that demonstrate clear and concise communication, and implement by May 16, 2016.
Prescription #3: Unified vision & direction
This congregation has already accepted the mission statement of, “Making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” This means that every ministry in the congregation must demonstrate how it will accomplish the mission within their area.
A Visioning Workshop will be conducted by a VCI facilitator for the VCI Team and key members of the congregation by April 2, 2016. From this group and after the workshop, a team of 7-9 people will be selected to be the vision team. These persons will define the vision in a clear, concise and cohesive statement. The new vision will provide direction for the congregation to work as a unified church. The vision statement will be completed and blessed by leadership and then presented to the congregation by July 6, 2016. Following the affirmation of the vision statement, the pastor, in consultation with the coach, will select a vision alignment team of at least 7-9 people, by July 25, 2016 to conduct an assessment of how this congregation is structured and how they do ministry in light of the new vision.
We, the consultation team, want to thank you for the opportunity to serve your congregation in this manner. Our prayers and hope for your congregation is that God will use this process to help you implement your mission more effectively, utilize your compelling vision through a developed plan, and thereby make an eternal difference in the First United Methodist Church of Hemphill community for the Glory of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev. Fred Willis, Lead Consultant
Rev. Bryan Harkness, Directive Coach
Marylyn Green, Scribe
Town Hall Meeting Dates:
Thursday, February 4, 2016 @ 5:30 pm
Tuesday, February 16, 2016 @ 5:30 pm
Church Conference Date: TBA